You should see the complete picture when you are planning your estate. Yes, you want to state your wishes in writing, but you should also consider the events that will take place after your passing.
A complicated, messy estate administration situation can create havoc within your family, and this can happen if your estate is contested. In this post, we will provide some tips that will help you prevent estate contests before they happen.
Surveys that are conducted find that most American adults are not prepared from an estate planning perspective. In spite of the inaction, the majority of these individuals feel as though estate planning is important, but they procrastinate for one reason or another.
If you pass away without any estate planning documents at all, the probate court would be forced to sort things out. During this interim, anyone that has an interest can come forward making a claim to an inheritance.
The simplest thing you can do to prevent a contested estate situation is to actually implement an estate plan in the first place. There is a very significant burden of proof placed on anyone that wants to challenge your wishes when they have been recorded clearly in a legally binding manner.
Keep Your Plan Current
When someone is contesting a will or trust, they could claim that the decedent did not know what was actually in the estate planning documents. With this in mind, you should get together with your estate planning attorney to review your existing plan every couple of years.
If it is very clear that you have been on top of the estate plan every step of the way, the odds of a successful challenge are slim to none. And of course, this is not the only reason why your estate plan should be regularly reviewed.
Changing circumstances in your life can trigger the need for estate plan updates, and new laws can be passed that impact your estate plan.
Use a Living Trust
A will must be admitted to probate after the passing of the decedent. The court is required to determine the validity of the will during this legal proceeding.
As a result, there is an open window of opportunity for will contests. If someone wants to come forward, they can make their case before the court while the estate is being probated.
On the other hand, if you use a living trust as your primary asset transfer vehicle, the trustee would distribute assets to the beneficiaries outside of probate. A challenge can still be presented, but the disgruntled party would be required to file a lawsuit.
There is another reason why a living trust can prevent an estate contest. The administration process is confidential when a living trust is utilized. When a will goes through probate, the public can access the records to pry into all the details, that’s why we heard so much about the Michael Jackson probate.
Include a No-Contest Clause
A no-contest clause can be included when you are drawing up your will or living trust. This would trigger the complete disinheritance of anyone that challenges the terms of the document.
An inheritor could roll the dice with an estate challenge, but the thought of being completely disinherited will act as a powerful disincentive.
There is another angle to consider when it comes to disgruntled parties. If you leave one of your children out of your estate plan to send a message, a no-contest clause would have no value, because they would have nothing to lose.
It is usually best to provide an inheritance, even if it is less than it could have been, to discourage the individual from making waves after your passing.
Communicate Your Intentions
When someone is unexpectedly slighted, it can feel like a gut punch, and anger that leads to a scorched-earth policy can be the natural response. On the other hand, if their expectations have been tempered in advance, the reaction is likely to be much more balanced.
This is often the case when parents decide to leave more or all of their estate to a child who is less financially fortunate than their siblings or who acted as the parents’ main caregiver during their twilight years. Parents assume that the more financially fortunate or less active children will understand their reasoning and not feel slighted by the parents. This is seldom the case!
Children often equate how much you leave them with how much you love them. Without heart to heart conversations taking place in advance of the parents’ deaths, heated emotions will most often rule the day and usually causes great family strife and broken relationships among siblings.
Don’t let this happen in your family. Honest, sincere communication can go a long way if you intend to make an inheritance planning decision that may not sit well with one of your children.
Schedule a Consultation Today!
Our doors are open if you are ready to work with a Burbank, CA estate planning lawyer to put a plan in place. You can schedule a consultation appointment right now if you call us at 818-937-2335. And if you would rather reach out electronically, fill out our contact form and we will be back in touch promptly.